Back Again 26th July 2017
Blog entry number 2. A kick start to my writing this was realising that people actually read my first entry! And how I found that out was they would come to my stall at the Grahamstown Arts Festival a few weeks ago and say, ‘I thought you said you weren’t coming here again?’ Well…yes. Busted, to some degree. To skip very dull details , I had a pre-paid stand and felt stronger in myself to go. And one has to be strong these days because what I came up against for that whole poor festival , is a debilitating sense of apathy. The Eastern Cape is sleepy at the best of times and this festival of Arts,Culture, Music,Celebration- usually pumps so much positive life blood into everyone. But for the last few years it has been on a serious downward trajectory. Sponsorship has been falling away, fewer people have attended, and many stalls are empty making the scene a lot less festive and a whole lot more straggly. However, I still managed to do pretty well and got some great designs together. I feel my whole attitude towards the festival has matured and the way I perceive it has changed. The loaded meaning I once placed on it has shifted and yet it still has a profound effect on me. I think what compelled me to write this article is, on coming back home I face that same sense of apathy I perceived there. A sense of not knowing where to begin.
It feels to me that Grahamstown Fest is (yet again) a microcosm for the macrocosm. People struggling, a sense of slow disintegration, a carrying on as usual even though the wheels are loose and one has come off. Poor Arts and Culture- when recession hits the country, these aspects take a serious back seat when actually they should be put at the forefront. Poetry, art, performance, craft, and all the myriad ways to express ourselves get suppressed by the gloomy cloud of economic and political meltdown. So towards the end of the festival,I just wanted to get the hell out of there because the reality of where we are as a country was so starkly obvious. I cant help but say this : I blame you Jacob Zuma and mainly what you stand for- your ‘who gives a fuck attitude’. But then, the whole world is totally crazy also..so South Africans need not feel alone on a sinking boat when actually its the world’s waters that are rising all around.
So my question is , how to be here right now in a way that doesn’t just chug along until every last one of those wheels has come off?
One night , my partner and I took a walk along the Grahamstown streets. There was a makeshift late night stand that was open along the side of the road. The woman there was selling a range of things she had made herself as well as some crazy second hand clothing items (think 80’s marshmallow pink puffy ski suit). She had the biggest most rocking Afro ever and she talked us through all of her wares. Her backpacks and earrings were all made from amazing African fabrics, beautifully made, and different. This wasn’t watered down tourist fare, just a raw creative expression. We walked away wondering why this person wasn’t representing at the main area with all the traders. She had such a much needed edge! And then it came to me, perhaps this is what is needed. Perhaps G Town, in all its years of existence- from small and seedy, to cutting edge, to gentrified, to half dead limping somnambulist, needs to zombie walk its way further into the furnace. To crumble and fall so that out of the ashes let a new wave of street show itself through the wreckage. Let it be a new African wave of talent- not selling trinkets for the international traveler but selling a brand of deeply rooted personal funk that lifts us out of our drowsy complacency and makes us see ! Something truly African, Inclusive, Open, Expansive.
And the same goes for the world at large. Things need to dip in order to rise. Let the lunacy of politics and the madness of the doped out masses be what it is and do what it does. And let that fuel how we feel. Instances like this, instead of urging me to clamber ever higher above to breathe what is left of the good air, compel me rather to sink down deep ,until I find the root that brings pure joy. That feels like a pure connection, something rooted in reality. And from that place create something that expresses this. And that my friends is how we rise out of this shit. Dig deep , sink instead of rise, go into the shadow and find the light.